Covid in the Tour de France peloton: fear of the virus is gaining ground among riders and teams

Covid in the Tour de France peloton: fear of the virus is gaining ground among riders and teams

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The abandonment of Frenchman Guillaume Martin, not starting this Sunday July 10, reinforces the fear of a return of the Covid epidemic within the teams on the Grand Boucle.

The Covid-19 caused the forced departure from the Tour de France on Sunday of a third rider in two days, Guillaume Martin, who had finished the race last year in the position of first Frenchman (8th). The Norman from Cofidis training is the first team leader to have to leave the race, the day after the retirement of the Norwegian Vegard Stake Laengen (UAE), teammate of the yellow jersey Tadej Pogacar, and the Frenchman Geoffrey Bouchard (AG2R Citroën).

As feared as Tadej Pogacar, the Covid-19 had been more discreet than the Slovenian until Saturday. The coronavirus was remembered on Saturday in the memory of the Tour de France peloton within the UAE team of the yellow jersey, under tension. The first two riders left the Grande Boucle on Saturday on a positive test: the Frenchman Geoffrey Bouchard at AG2R and the Norwegian Vegard Stake Laengen.

The carnage of the Tour of Switzerland

The very day the peloton returned to the Swiss roads, the scene of a carnage of abandonments on Covid-19 during the Tour de Suisse last month. Only 76 elements had finished the test, when they were 152 at the start. The Tour de France is not there yet but the atmosphere has somewhat died down. Departing from Dole, big arms from the UAE management played the bouncers pushing journalists and guests behind a cordon, away from the team bus, as if the party was over.

At the same time, the director of the yellow jersey, Mauro Gianetti, in deep discussion with the race doctors, complained about the crowd around the paddock: “Why are there so many people around the bus?” “We are testing every day. The whole team has been negative for ten days, including yesterday (Friday). But this (Saturday) morning, Laengen tested positive,” said Emirati team doctor Adriano Rotunno. The Norwegian had a “itchy throat in the night”, detailed his leader Tadej Pogacar at a press conference. “We are obviously worried because he has been in contact with the riders, the whole team”, admitted Dr Adriano Rotunno.

Guillaume Martin leaves the Tour de France due to a positive Covid test. The Frenchman from Cofidis puts an end to his incredible series of 362 days of racing without the slightest abandonment. He was ranked 14th overall before this ninth stage. #TDF2022 pic.twitter.com/H9xmFJ65UV

– The Gruppetto (@TheGruppetto) July 10, 2022

Even if the UAE runners, he assured, occupy individual rooms, wear the mask and each have their own masseur. That of Laengen was sent home. – “It can ruin the Tour” – “It is important that anyone positive goes home,” insisted sporting director Andrej Hauptman. Although the Covid protocol, revised for the 2022 edition, allows an asymptomatic positive case to remain in the race, by decision of a tripartite college (team, organizers, UCI).

“It can ruin the tour” worries Pogacar

Deprived of Matteo Trentin just before the big start, already on a positive test, Pogacar lost, this time in the race, a new element, which could not be replaced. “He was the big guy in the team, described the double winner out of the Tour at a press conference. He was in good shape, was riding on the flat, on the climbs, everywhere. It was like the train of the team. It’s going to be harder without him. Despite everything, I think we can get by with seven riders until Paris”.

Like his sports director in the morning, Pogacar pointed out the public as a risk of contamination. “Every day, on the climbs, there are lots of people cheering us on, shouting at us, he described. It’s something I really like but it also increases the possibility of infection by the virus. I hope it stays that way.” “The Covid is not a rival but a parameter that can affect things. It can ruin the Tour, dropped the Slovenian. But my opponents are teams like Jumbo and Ineos”.

“Maximum precautions” at Jumbo

Within the first, that of his rival Jonas Vingegaard (2nd at 39 seconds overall), a form of serenity remained in place: “The Covid was a cause for concern from the start. I am no more afraid than ‘before’, relativizes the boss of Jumbo Richard Plugge. “For us, it is impossible to raise the level of precautions, it is at the maximum”, he assures.

Air purifiers at the hotel, room cleaning, the Dutch team has not relaxed its vigilance compared to 2020 and 2021, he says. Indeed, going up the line of sports director cars on a motorcycle, Jumbo is one of the rare teams whose passengers are masked and even equipped with FFP2 equipment. Quick-Step too, but it must be said that the management of Belgian training has almost turned to the cluster: three new sports directors called in to fill those infected.

The last two masked teams, Astana and Movistar, have opted for the surgical version for all vehicle occupants. Sign of a peak of tension at the approach of the burst of tests scheduled for Sunday evening or Monday, during the day of rest before the Alps.

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